Banal Liberal Calls to Unity

An excerpt from a 2016 interview with professor, author and organizer Dylan Rodriguez, re-posted from

The following interview was conducted by Casey Goonan, an editor with True Leap Press. It originally appeared in the independent, open-access journal Propter Nos

Casey Goonan: The US white-supremacist state operates today through a different set of discourses and cultural structures than in previous epochs. Your work interrogates such shifts at a level of depth and nuance that is of particular importance for emergent struggles against racist state violence. “Multiculturalist white supremacy,” “post-racial liberal optimism,” “white academic raciality”—such terms are utilized throughout your work to interrogate a myriad of theoretical and historical conundrums that define the post-Civil Rights era, particularly in regards to racial violence and subjectivity. Can you, in very broad strokes, lay out what you are trying to accomplish with these interventions in the discourses, practices, and forms of embodiment that so violently delimit the possibilities for radical social change in the United States?

Dylan Rodríguez: The aftermath of American apartheid’s formal abolition has been overwhelmed by a grand national-cultural vindication of “Civil Rights” as the vessel of fully actualized gendered-racial citizenship. This fraud has, in various ways, facilitated rather than interrupted the full, horrific exercise of a domestic war-waging regime. For the sake of momentary simplicity, we can think about it along these lines: the half-century narrative of Civil Rights victory rests on an always-fragile but persistent common sense—the idea that national political culture (“America”) and the spirit of law and statecraft (let’s call this “The Dream”) endorse formal racial equality. Bound by this narrative-political context, the racist state’s mechanics shift and multiply to rearticulate a condition of normalized racist violence that is condoned or even applauded by the institutionalized regimes of Civil Rights. (It is not difficult to see how the NAACP, JACL, LULAC, Lambda, NOW, Urban League and other like-minded organizations condone or applaud domestic racial war, so long as it is directed at the correct targets: gang members, drug dealers, “violent criminals,” terrorists, etc.). In other words, the contemporary crisis of racist state violence is not reducible to “police brutality” and homicidal policing, or even the structuring asymmetries of incarceration: it is also a primary derivative of the Civil Rights regime.

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Unrepresented and Overlooked

From author and activist Rebecca Solnit, re-posted from social media.

Memo to my fellow white people ostentatiously complaining about how they didn’t like Everything Everywhere All At Once. I loved the film but if I didn’t I’d be aware how meaningful it is to other people–notably Asian and Asian American viewers– and not dump on their joy. It’s a huge breakthrough film in a white-dominated industry, and some of you are sounding pretty….checked-out…in your grousing.

[There are lots of other works of art where it’s very clear how meaningful it is to someone else, often because they have long gone unrepresented and overlooked, and if it’s not resonating the same way for me, it’s my goal to be attuned to why it resonates for them, not foreground my grumpy limitations and my luxury of already having films/ music/ stories/ songs enough about people like me. But there’s also always the question of why something doesn’t resonate. Can you not identify with characters of another race/sexual orientation/background or enjoy spending time watching their lives unfold? If not, you might want to explore that. A lot of young and queer people also loved the film. I’m not saying everyone must like it; but I am saying that thinking about the why or why not could be useful and also that a lot of the complaining sounds pretty close-minded and mean-spirited and very middle-aged. Black journalist Eugene Robinson wrote today: “That is a level of Asian representation we have never seen before at the Oscars. In the past, the message from Hollywood to Asian actors and creators has ranged from, effectively, “squeeze yourself into this stereotyped pigeonhole” to “just stay the hell away.”’]

Entering the Womb Again: A Sermon for Straight Males (and Everyone Else)

By Jim Perkinson, a sermon for St. Peter’s Episcopal Church in Detroit, Michigan (March 5, 2023)

Last week Carvan asked me “What’re you gonna preach on!”  I said something like, “I don’t know yet—we’ll see.”  Only partially truthful—but human “knowing” is always a work in progress and for a 71-year old man, more like a bird flitting “now here, now gone,” than a rock sitting hard and fast on the ground.  But the response was also a way of keeping the door open, letting the wind in, as the gospel today retorts, making womb-space for new seeds to plant themselves and grow.  And sure enough, a new seed showed its face on the very morning of my beginning to sprout whatever it was I was going to say.  And contrary to our modern dried up relations with the plant world, seeds do have faces.  So, I will start there.

The New York Times this past Friday had a feature on the most recent museum display of Wangechi Mutu, Kenya artist straddling the Atlantic like her people have been made to do for 500 years now, crafting pain into vision, trauma into beauty, haunting and clairvoyant.  She sees the past and future all in one glimpse.  And opens the sight for any who would dare look.  But only, as John enjoins, if you are willing to be “born again.”               Am I?  Are you?  Hmmmm . . .

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Take Action on Immigration

An appeal from Guillermo Torres of Clergy and Laity United for Economic Justice.

After four years of horrific immigration policies of the previous administration, I was somewhat hopeful (I say that because with politicians you never know) that things were going to change when the new Biden administration took over. But to my dismay, but not surprise, this administration had some major hick-ups right from the start. 

It started with the process of detaining unaccompanied minors and locking them up in a detention center in Texas that was previously used by the former Trump administration, located near toxic grounds. 

Then, after that, came horrific images of Custom Border Patrol agents in Texas pursuing and hurling their horses at Haitian asylees to detain them and deport them back to Haiti, this in the midst of a country that was experiencing horrific violence and reeling from an earthquake. 

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God’s Competition with Race, Gender and Nationalism

By Rev. Graylan Scott Hagler

“O say can you see,” stood in the place where God should be, and it didn’t wave but passively stood, planted, and seemingly unmovable across from the Christian flag, that is also red, white and blue. This is the scene in so many Christian houses of worship across the country. It serves as a reminder to the congregants that they are not only in America, but quietly and effectively offers the assertion that America is a Christian country, founded on Christian principles, and in order to be a good American necessitates being a Christian. Or, in the synagogue, on the Bimah, often stands two flags, an American one and the Star of David, that confirms not only American loyalty, but loyalty to another country, and to another political ideology. These symbols are not too subtle, and the implied message is God and country, and country or countries on the same level as God.

According to the theologies of the Judeo-Christian traditions there is no god greater than God, and there is this timeless struggle against idol worship in all its manifestations. We caution against worshipping money and riches, against pride and arrogance, we call for humility and the extension of love to our neighbors down the street and across the globe. We pray to keep God before us and above us, and seek to be accountable to that God. We strive to create a synthesis between our daily living and our worship, and seek to allow nothing to supplant the prominence of God in our lives. Yet, on these altars, these places that are set high and represents the loftiness and sacredness of God, stands symbols of nationalistic pride. They are placed in the place where the spirit and concept of God should reside, and we are therefore declaring that God must share sacred space with nationalistic symbols of pride, arrogance and militarism. Some would suggest that this is simply patriotism, but patriotism placed on the altar alongside the conceptional sacredness of God is the height of idolatry, and in Christian text we are taught,

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Antidarkness + Black Joy

It’s March. On this site, that means that Black History month is just starting. This is an excerpt from Bettina Love’s We Want to do More than Survive: Abolitionist Teaching and the Pursuit of Educational Freedom (2019).

Antidarkness is the social disregard for dark bodies and the denial of dark people’s existence and humanity. When White students attend nearly all-White schools, intentionally removed from America’s darkness to reinforce White dominance, that is antidarkness. When dark people are present in school curriculums as unfortunate circumstances of history, that is antidarkness. When schools are filled with White faces in positions of authority and dark faces in the school’s help staff, that is antidarkness. The idea that dark people have had no impact on history or the progress of mankind is one of the foundational ideas of White supremacy. Denying dark people’s existence and contributions to human progress relegates dark folx to being takers and not cocreators of history or their lives…

…What is astonishing is that through all the suffering the dark body endures, there is joy, Black joy. I do not mean the type of fabricated and forced joy found in a Pepsi commercial. I am talking about joy that originates in resistance, joy that is discovered in making a way out of no way, joy that is uncovered when you know how to love yourself and others, joy that comes from relieving pain, joy that is generated in music and art that puts words and/or images to your life’s greatest challenges and pleasures and joy in teaching from a place of resistance, agitation, purpose, justice, love and mattering.

Unmasking a Long Crisis

By Tommy Airey, co-founder and curator of

Last Wednesday, this site propped The People’s CDC, a coalition of public health practitioners, scientists, healthcare workers, educators, advocates and people from all walks of life working to reduce the harmful impacts of COVID-19. The People’s CDC is a great resource for orgs and communities on the left committed to keeping all their people safe. Its weekly Covid “weather reports” are clear, concise and hyperlinked to back the stats. Last week, I received an email from a long-time reader who loves Radical Discipleship, but who had “great concerns” about Wednesday’s post. She referred to a recent study (Cochrane) that she claimed “summarizes that masks are not all that effective.” She was concerned that Wednesday’s post was building on a fear that is unwarranted because the “virus has gone to a much less virulent illness.”

I want to respond publicly to this email because I know that these sentiments are widespread, even on the left. Before I do, allow me to offer this full disclosure: Lindsay and I mostly work from home and we do not have children of our own. We have navigated the pandemic with unique privileges. My heart goes out to my former colleagues in the classroom, friends who are working nine to five jobs, folks I went to seminary with who are orchestrating Sunday services and parents of young children trying to make decisions about masks and gatherings in this climate of Covid denial and minimalism.

Trying to keep up with Covid-19 and make it make sense is an increasingly challenging and risky task. The problem is that ordinary people are swimming against a strong current of “open the economy” campaigns funded by white elites taking advantage of statistics that show people of color are more vulnerable to Covid-19. These stats and targeted disinformation have led white Americans to be consistently less fearful of the disease and less supportive of safety precautions for the past twenty months.

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A Prayer of Freedom

An excerpt from Bill Wylie-Kellermann’s classic Seasons of Faith and Conscience (1991), on the first temptation of Jesus in the wilderness: If you are the Son of God, command these stones to become loaves of bread.

To undertake a lenten discipline, to fast or deny an appetite, is not to inflict some perverse self-punishment or to be justified by a religious act. It is a prayer of freedom: to loosen the bonds and to restore a right relation to the created order. It is so politically loaded because it breaks with the culture precisely at its main method of control.

If in his own fast Jesus is exercising a similar kind of freedom, the tempter manages to come back at a more subtle level. The temptation is to power because more than Jesus’ own needs are at issue. Can there be any doubt that in his aching need he intercedes for all those who are hungry? He bears all who suffer poverty and want. Can there be doubt that he wants justice so bad he can taste it? He hungers after righteousness.

The sharing of bread is intimately entangled with the ministry of Jesus. It is the great sign and metaphor of the kingdom. I have a friend who says if you can read the gospels without getting hungry then you’re not paying attention. The ministry reads like a gigantic floating potluck. From the opening wedding feast to to the feeding of the multitudes, by way of banquet parables or eating with tax collectors and sinners, through the last supper and the resurrection meals. Jesus can be seen with bread in his hands – blessing, breaking, offering, partaking.